NEW YORK (Feb. 18)
Abba Eban said he expressed support for U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz’s new Mideast peace initiative during a meeting with him at the State Department on Wednesday.
Eban, chairman of the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, said he also “told him that my attitude is shared by a large segment of Israeli society” and discussed the secretary’s trip to the Mideast next week.
The Knesset leader said in a telephone interview Thursday that his 40-minute meeting Wednesday included Richard Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, and Charles Hill, Shultz’s executive assistant.
Shultz’s proposals call for talks on limited autonomy for the Palestinians on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with local elections held by the fall and negotiations on the final status of the territories to begin by the end of the year.
The negotiations would be based on President Reagan’s 1982 initiative, which proposed that Israel give up most of the territories in return for peace. The Labor Party, to which Eban belongs, has accepted Shultz’s basic formula, while the Likud of Premier Shamir rejects giving up any territory.
Nevertheless, Eban said that Shultz is “upbeat” about his new initiative. “He is very encouraged by the support he has been receiving from Congress, the president and from Jewish leaders,” Eban said.
“Shultz is very determined to go ahead with his new proposals,” Eban added.
The former Israeli foreign minister and Shultz’s new undertaking as “a ray of light” against the background of the daily disturbances and outburst of violence in the territories.
Eban, who arrived here Wednesday night, said he has met with various Jewish leaders and visited Jewish communities in America in the last few days.
“I can not recall a time when the Jews here were more upset than they are now in regard to the news from Israel. I found them to be in deep emotional crisis,” he said.
Eban also spoke with pessimism about the situation in the territories. “Unfortunately I don’t see an early end to what’s happening. It is probably a matter for months or even more. Israel has undergone a major transformation since Dec. 9,” he said, referring to the beginning of the Palestinian disturbances.